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A&S Alumna Wins University of Texas’ ‘Outstanding Teaching Award’

Mathematics professor Christina Graves G'05, G'09 known for 'liberal arts mindset'

Aug 27, 2014 | Article by: Rob Enslin

Photo of Christy Graves

Christina Graves G'05, G'09

Christina Graves G’05, G’09, who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is a recipient of the Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award from The University of Texas (UT) System.

One of the Regents’ highest honors, the $25,000 award is offered annually to UT System professors demonstrating extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in undergraduate instruction.

“Ten years from now, I don't expect my students to recite derivative rules of the steps for solving differential equations,” says Graves, assistant professor of mathematics at UT Tyler. “I do, however, expect them to be skilled critical thinkers. A major focus in my classroom is the thought-process behind the problem solving.”

Graves teaches a variety of undergraduate courses at UT Tyler, including ones in probability and statistics, calculus, and abstract algebra. She also leads graduate courses in combinatorics and graph theory, which, along with reliability polynomials, constitute her areas of research expertise.

A Ph.D. advisee of Syracuse Professor Jack Graver (an accomplished teacher-trainer, in his own right), Graves says he instilled in her a liberal arts mindset. As a result, her classes are designed to foster critical thinking skills, effective communication, and creative problem-solving.

They’re also known for their flexible learning approaches.

“Coming out of graduate school, I was so sure of my beliefs that I quickly wrote a teaching philosophy in one afternoon,” says Graves, who also earned a Certificate in University Teaching from Syracuse. “Now I realize that my philosophy is not so set in stone and that it is constantly changing and growing.”

Such a philosophy has translated into multiple honors for Graves, including being named an inaugural faculty fellow (in undergraduate research) and receiving the Jack and Dorothy Faye White Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.

This past spring, Graves served as the co-principal investigator of and a faculty mentor at a federally funded Research Experience for Undergraduates Program in mathematics.

“In the end, it’s the student evaluations and comments that have shaped my teaching philosophy,” says Graves, who won Syracuse’s Donald E. Kibbey Prize in Mathematics.  “I teach for my students, and they deserve the best environment I can create for them.”

One of the oldest and largest units in Syracuse’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Mathematics is home to more than 30 faculty members. The department offers nearly a dozen graduate and undergraduate degree programs in various areas, including statistics and mathematics education, and is committed to promoting mathematics appreciation in secondary schools and throughout the community.

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Rob Enslin